The Malta Independent 16 October 2019, Wednesday

Foreign students: School of basic English, integration should be set up to tackle bullying problem

Neil Camilleri Thursday, 10 October 2019, 09:13 Last update: about 6 days ago

The Education Commissioner has suggested the setting up of a school where foreign students who do not speak English or Maltese are better prepared to join a state school, tackling the bullying problem.

In the Ombudsplan 2020, Charles Caruana Carabez again goes into the issue of bullying perpetrated by or against foreign students who are unable to integrate due to a lack of language skills.

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He writes that students coming from different cultures and who do not speak either language can quickly start feeling lost.

“Our educational system was not designed to meet these challenges and the solutions offered are not and cannot be completely satisfying. After a few weeks, these children may start showing hostility. Not all Maltese children, on the other hand, are willing to approach them and help them during this difficult time. This is a reality,” Caruana Carabez writes.

For this reason, he feels there is a need for the creation of a school where these students are given the ability to communicate at least in basic English and where they are taught the basic principles of integration in a society that is completely new to them, before they are placed in state schools.

“This should never be regarded as a form of segregation, especially since their time at this particular school will be short,” he adds.

Commissioner Caruana Carabez was recently criticised by a number of NGOs after he expressed concern at the rise of group-bullying in schools by ethnic students. Some of the factors that give rise to such forms of bullying, he had said, include the fact that these students do not speak English or Maltese and the fact that some of them come from war-torn countries. His report was described by a number of groups as being “misinformed” and “seriously flawed.”

Caruana Carabez, however, has again addressed the issue, saying he has already looked into cases, and is aware of others, where foreign and Maltese students have become victims or aggressors as a result of this situation.

 

Matsec reform

Caruana Carabez also took aim at the proposed Matsec reform which, he said, will put dyslexic students at a disadvantage.

Under the proposed reform, which is at public consultation stage, students would have to choose a foreign language at advanced or intermediary level. Students require a pass in the Maltese and English language to get into university, but under the proposed reform they would need a foreign language, choosing between Italian, French, Spanish and German.

The Education Commissioner said students with dyslexia or other conditions will suffer as a result of the added compulsory language. “These students are already penalised for orthographic and lexical mistakes and they will struggle more with the additional language. With three languages, their chances of qualifying for university courses will decrease.”

The proposed reform will also allow student athletes to replace one of their optional intermediate subjects with their sport and will recognise co-curricular activities.

The Education Commissioner expresses concern here as well, saying that the way in which marks are given in sport and extra-curricular studies will become too subjective, and can lead to disputes between people who feel that they deserved more.

“It will become difficult, if not impossible, to come to equitable conclusions substantiated by fact,” he writes.

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